Early in Monday’s victory in Oklahoma City, Utah Jazz forward Bojan Bogdanovic was struggling through another poor-shooting half and could several times be observed shaking his surgically-repaired right wrist, as though it was bothering him, or he was in pain.
And then, right after halftime, he absorbed a solid whack to the area from a defender looking to dislodge the ball … and, counterintuitively, started hitting shots immediately thereafter.
“Actually, I felt pretty well [in the first half]. In the first play of the third quarter, someone hit me pretty hard in my wrist, and then then I started playing [with] rhythm. So maybe I needed that hit to change something!” Bogdanovic joked afterward.
Turns out, what’s been ailing Bogey is not the continuing process of getting his wrist back to where it used to be, but the continuing process of getting his timing and confidence back where they once were.
All that time spent recovering and resting and rehabbing robbed him of that, he said.
“I feel pretty well physically, but I’ve missed playing. I mean, I didn’t play for seven, eight months, I didn’t touch a basketball, I couldn’t play pickup games and whatever with the other guys. I’ve got to get back to that feeling — to make the right decisions,” Bogdanovic explained. “I’m playing in a crowd, I’m taking the shots that are not my shots. So I’ve got to stay confident and then maybe play more off of other players.”
Several times throughout training camp and the preseason, Donovan Mitchell made a prescient-in-retrospect comment that was largely discounted at the time because it seemed so odd — that the Jazz were getting used to playing with Bogey again.
Granted, the Croatian had missed the restart and playoff games in the bubble on account of his surgery, but they’d all played together for months before that. So how much re-acclimation time could they need upon his return?
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Turns out, it’s not as simple as just going back out there and doing what they used to do.
“He’s been out for an extended period of time, [there was a] shorter preseason, shortened training camp — I think there’s a lot for us to kind of figure out,” Mitchell said. “… We found things that we were successful at in the bubble, and then when you add Bojan back, who’s a 20-point per game scorer, you’ve got to be able to understand that the same looks may not be there.”
Beyond his teammates getting used to him, there’s plenty that Bogdanovic is getting used to again as well.
While he finished off strong against the Thunder, going 6 for 8 in the second half, his previous six quarters had been a mess of forced looks and off-target attempts — a stretch that saw him go a combined 5 for 25 from the field.
Finding a rhythm earlier on will be key for him, he said.
“I mean, I’ve got to get, in a game, some easy stuff,” Bogdanovic said. “[Monday], in the game, I opened with a couple of layups and a couple of mid-range shots that are not my shots. And then after I hit that first 3, then I started to feel a little bit better, hotter — then I can do whatever I want. But from the beginning of the game, I gotta be a little bit smarter right now, because I’m not playing like I’m supposed to play.”
Mitchell, who was having another rough game until scoring Utah’s final dozen points vs. the Thunder, can certainly identify with that.
And actually, he said, it’s a fairly universal thing throughout the roster.
“A lot of us really haven’t played throughout [the offseason]; we kinda took that time off from playing because it was such a quick turnaround,” he said. “And that’s not to make an excuse, don’t get me wrong at all, but [it’s about] finding a rhythm.”
Coach Quin Snyder agreed, noting that while the Jazz were frequently off-kilter in OKC, their four best scorers all had moments where they did the heavy lifting — such as Bogey in the third quarter, when he made 5 of 6 overall, including 4 for 4 from deep.
“We had different guys carry us during stretches — Donovan at the end, Mike [Coney[, Bojan, [Jordan Clarkson],” Snyder said. “All those guys had good minutes for us offensively.”
And Mitchell is of the opinion that it won’t take much for Bogdanovic to have a lot more of those soon.
“I tell Bojan to shoot every time he touches, just because that’s the faith we have as a team in him,” Mitchell said. “… With Bojan, [it’s about] just continuing to take those shots, man. We all have faith in his abilities, and we know that he works hard and is working hard to get back. We’re not too worried, and it’ll be good.”